Siwa has long been celebrated for the exquisitely embroidered garments and stunning silver jewelry worn by its women. Widely prized around the world for their beauty and craftsmanship, in Siwa, many of these adornments have traditionally served important functions as ritual icons, symbols of marital status, keepers of fertility and conveyers of tradition.
Siwan mothers teach their daughters and granddaughters how to sew, embroider and embellish many different hand-woven fabrics from Upper Egypt, producing a range of ornamented garments including gowns, cloaks and trousers. Each Siwan girl is expected to produce her own wedding trousseau, in part as an exhibition of her skill in the traditional crafts. The most dazzling garments are those worn by Siwan women during wedding festivities.
Of these, the white cotton asherah namilal worn on the third day, and the black silk asherah nazitaf worn on the seventh day, are especially striking. Each is intricately embroidered with small red, orange and black designs that radiate from a central disc placed over the chest, and embellished with mother-of-pearl buttons and amulets.
Siwan jewelry is equally striking. Delicate yet robust, Siwan necklaces, headdresses, bracelets and rings are fashioned from silver and embroidered leather and accented with coral, mother-of-pearl, amber, shells and other natural materials.
Incorporating Amazigh designs similar to those of North Africa but distinct in all of Egypt, the silverwork and craftsmanship is of such high quality it is sought after by collectors around the world, but in Siwa, the jewelry holds significance beyond its beauty.
One such design is an exotic fertility necklace worn only by unwed Siwan girls. The adrim, a large silver disc, slips over the aghrow, a thick silver coil in the shape of a sun disc, to hang just above a woman’s breasts, forming a provocative design of exceptional beauty. Commonly, the aghrow is plain while the adrim is finely decorated with geometric and natural patterns that often feature fish, a symbol of fertility. On the night before her wedding, a Siwan bride-to-be passes the aghrow to the next eligible female of her family, transmitting a piece of family history and Siwan culture.
Unfortunately, various modern pressures threaten to erode these crafts and the cultural traditions they embody to the point of no return. To help ensure that Siwa and the world may enjoy these precious gifts for generations to come, Siwa Creations has launched a line of garments and accessories exquisitely embroidered in the traditional Siwan style for women of today.